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Ways to prevent atopic eczema

Eczema is a condition that causes inflammation or irritation of the skin.One of the commonest types of eczema is atopic eczema, also called atopic dermatitis.…

Eczema is a condition that causes inflammation or irritation of the skin.One of the commonest types of eczema is atopic eczema, also called atopic dermatitis.

It is common in children and could improve or go with them into adolescence or adulthood.

According to Dr Haroun Adamu, a consultant dermatologist with the Federal Medical Centre, Abuja,atopic eczema is characterised byrough, dry, itchy and discoloured skin.

He said it affected people of all ages but usually began in childhood and may have different severities into mid-teens. A few people carry it to adult life, he said.

The medical expert said atopic eczema could affect any part of the body but most often affects the inside of elbows, back of the knees, the neck, face and hands, among others.

He added that it could also affect the whole body and that the severity varies.

The symptoms of the condition include rough, dry, hard, itching skin that is sometimes reddish and may later appear dark.

Dr Adamu said atopic eczema could be triggered by harsh weather, perfumes, harsh soaps, detergents, rough clothing and household substances.

The dermatologist said food does not cause eczema but could act as trigger.

“There is a common misconception that if you have eczema then there must be a food you are allergic to. Many people always want to know the type of food they are allergic to that causes eczema. Certain foods can trigger eczema but eczema is not specifically caused by the type of food they eat,” he said.

Dr Adamu said stress, some household items, and some household animals and pets could also trigger atopic eczema.

He also debunked the belief that eczema is caused by lack of hygiene.

He said measures to prevent atopic eczema comprise primary prevention and secondary prevention.

He said  primary prevention was aimed at preventing atopic eczema in children who are predisposed to it, while secondary prevention was aimed at  preventing  the development of ‘flare-ups’  or escalation of the  rashes  in people who have already developed it.

The medic said some beneficial measures for primary preventionare breastfeeding babies in the first 46 months of life.

Other helpful measures for primary prevention include administration of probiotic bacteria in pregnant women before delivery, reduction of antibiotics administration in infants,and avoiding infection in infants.

Secondary prevention includes prevention of ‘flare ups’in children who had developed atopic eczema. This involves the application of emollient or moisturizing treatments  every four to six  hours as well as elimination of skin irritants, avoidance of excess sweating,  elimination of food allergens in diets if found to be a trigger, and avoidance of stressful situations.

The dermatologist said there was currently no cure for atopic eczema. However,he said treatment for the condition involvesthe use of emollients (moisturising treatments),the avoidance of triggers, and use of steroids.

He said emollients help with dry skin. “One of the abnormalities found in skins affected by eczemawas lack of liquids or oils that lie between the cells of the skin, so this tends to expose the skin to dryness and allows other things to get into it thereby triggering the rash.

“So the use of emollient moisturisers is a very important part of preventing atopic eczema, especially during the harmattan. There are several types of emollients in the market. The commonest ones are Shea butter and Vaseline,” he added.

On avoidance of triggers, he said people should avoid hard detergents, rough clothing and certain foods if proven to be triggers.

He said: “Everyone has his or her own trigger. All the triggers do not appear in a single person but the common ones are dry weather, chemicals, soaps and detergents.”

He explained that the third aspect of treatment was the use of steroids. The steroids are used to treat flares.They are applied on the affected part until the flares go down.They are used on certain parts of the body such as the face, or under the arms and have side effects if not properly administered.

It should be used with sound knowledge on the quantity, type, strength, and part of the body is to be used.

Dr Adamu advised they are better used under the supervision of a physician who monitors, supervises and instructs patients on how to use them.


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